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Now that you understand these difficulties, it's time to go back to the basics.

No matter where your family ended up, you can't research your German roots until you have learned more about your more recent ancestors.

Since most German records are not centralized, it is nearly impossible to trace your ancestors in Germany without this step.

If your German ancestor immigrated to America after 1892, you can probably find this information on the passenger arrival record for the ship on which they sailed to America.

Prior to its unification in 1871, Germany consisted of a loose association of kingdoms (Bavaria, Prussia, Saxony, Wurttemberg...), duchies (Baden...), free cities (Hamburg, Bremen, Lubeck...), and even personal estates - each with its own laws and record keeping systems.

Once you've used a variety of genealogy records to trace your family back to the original German ancestor, the next step is to find the name of the specific town, village or city in Germany where your immigrant ancestor lived.Other common sources for locating an immigrant's hometown include vital records of birth, marriage and death; census records; naturalization records and church records.Learn more in Tips for Finding the Birthplace of Your Immigrant Ancestor After you've determined the immigrant's hometown in Germany, you should next locate it on a map to determine whether it still exists, and in which German state.Online German gazetteers can help locate the state in Germany in which a town, village or city can now be found.If the place appears to no longer exist, turn to historic German maps and finding aids to learn where the place used to be, and in which country, region or state the records may now exist.

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